Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Black Beans

Earlier this summer, I sowed black beans as cover crop after the spring/summer harvest to control weeds and add nutrients to the soil.  As a bonus, the beans are maturing and ready for picking.  Black beans are one of my favorite legumes. I think they are the most versatile of the beans and quite a powerhouse.

Black beans are the most nutritious of the legumes.  They are a good source of protein as well as calcium, iron, folic acid, and potassium.  The beans are high in fiber content, too, and antioxidant.  If there was nothing else to eat, I would do very well with black beans  fresh from the garden.

The black beans are growing vigorously.  They are covering the surface of the garden plot, keeping the weeds at bay, withstanding the heat, and not needing much water.  The beans are beginning to mature, putting out long green pods.  They are ready to harvest when the pod seems to be dry, turning brownish.  Forget about picking green pods:  they are almost impossible to shell and the beans are not black.

Black beans are popular in Mexican and Cuban dishes.  They are popular in my kitchen, too.  I can mix them with corn kernels; I can add them in salads; and mash them up and use as fried beans.  Fried beans, huh?  I can also spice them up with onions, garlic, and cilantro.  I can add dried oregano and ground cumin to a pot of black beans.  How about a bit of sugar and white vinegar?  The black beans are indeed versatile legumes.

Dried black beans from any grocery store are rather inexpensive.  I usually soak them overnight but the cooking time is still two hours.  Some say that half an hour will suffice.  Hmm?  It's best to check from time to time.  To thicken the bean liquid, mash some beans and keep simmering.  Black beans along with some of the thickened liquid served over white rice and topped with chives makes a most nutritious meal by itself.

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